Former pupil visits Dame Hannahs

Monday 08 July 2019

Former pupil Paul Brenton visited the Dame Hannah Rogers School last week and met Head Teacher Jason Ryder and current students. Paul was a pupil at the school in the 1950s.

Paul was one of 60 children and the only day pupil at the school when it was based in Blachford Road, Ivybridge. He went to Dame Hannahs at the age of six and commuted from his home in Plympton for four years. At the age of 10 he then moved to Plympton primary school and then on to the secondary modern school. He continued treatment at Trengweath Hospital.

He has only happy memories of his time at the school including dressing up as Francis Drake and taking part in a film which was shown in Plymouth. He had his first girlfriend Susan Grindell at the school and he met up with her again many years later. He also remembers one inspiring teacher in particular called Miss Hurrell whose father was the naturalist HG Hurrell. In the 1950s Dame Hannahs had a lot of outside supporters and he remembers the Navy presenting them with a huge television.

Born in 1945 with Cerebral Palsy, Paul learnt to walk independently from the age of four and has only started using sticks again in the last 10 years. In 1961 he had a pioneering operation, a hamstring realignment, which meant that he could stand with straight legs although he stopped being able to run.

After leaving school Paul’s first job was with Bush Radio in Ernesettle, which was later taken over by Toshiba. He worked there for 18 years. At the same time he took evening classes in TV servicing and colour TV principles. He also took O level English Language and A level Sociology. After leaving Bush Radio he took a TEFAL course and taught English to foreign students.

Paul has always been interested in transport, starting off riding a bike then a Lambretta scooter until he learnt to drive and then to fly. Always a car enthusiast, his first car was a Morris 8 Series E and today he is the proud owner of an Austin Healey. He learnt to fly as he was inspired by his father who flew Spitfires. He even he got to fly a Spitfire himself on his 50th birthday. He enjoyed passing on his knowledge to young people and became involved in after school activities and summer camps and tutored on the principles of flight as well as rifle drills.

In 1979 Paul married Pamela after meeting her at a volunteer meeting at the Guild of Social Services. Pamela, who came from Newcastle, had suffered from epilepsy all her life and sadly died aged 49 in 2004. Not long afterwards Paul was introduced to his second wife Fidencia who comes from Paraguay but was living in Scotland at the time. They spent some time travelling between Devon and Scotland before marrying in 2006 and they now live in Paul’s grandparents’ old house.

Paul has always done voluntary work and started a charity in 1989 called the Train Restoration Opportunities for Disabled (TROD). He raised £10k and bought a half brake rolling coach for British Rail Reg 802008. It went to Bodmin and ran for 10 years before being moved to Plympton for restoration. Another important part of Paul’s life has been the Church and he is now involved in Stoke Methodist Church. He also offers spiritual healing through chat rooms on the internet.

Head Teacher Jason Ryder said “The Dame Hannah Rogers Trust has such a rich history and it was just wonderful to meet Paul and talk about his experience in the original school in the early 1950s. It was particularly moving when Paul met Zach, one of our current students – a poignant picture of ‘students then and now’ and a reminder of the number of people we have supported at this inspiring Trust”.